Roughly 12 hours after the Mililani Trojans won their first OIA boys volleyball championship in 23 years, head coach Trenton Niino, senior outside hitter Sila Fuiava and sophomore setter Chance Guillermo were kind enough to do a Q&A with Hawaii Prep World.
Fuiava had 17 kills in a five-set upset win over six-time defending league champion Moanalua. Guillermo dished out 45 assists with four kills and three blocks. They go huge performances by key role players like middle Andrew Valladeres (five blocks), and, of course, there was the high-decibel count provided by Mililani’s fans all match long. It was the loudest boys volleyball match I’ve experience in decades.
HPW: Good morning Coach Trenton. Thank you for helping last night. My deadline was real close, but I made it. Did Moanalua do anything schematically that surprised you? At times it seemed like both teams were reading each others’ minds.
Trenton Niino: Moanalua did not do anything that surprised me. They are a disciplined team with a lot of experience, so I knew that they were going to come out firing on all cylinders. After that second set (Mililani took a 2-0 lead), I told my team that they cannot relax and go into cruise control because Moanalua is not a team that will give up easily. Last night’s match was comparable to a boxing match, each team taking punch after punch, round after round. I think that’s a testament to both teams’ knowledge of the game. Moanalua played exactly like how we expected them to, and it was all about adjustments on our part, and our players executed it well.
HPW: Your players seemed comfortable once again with playing on a big stage, the TV cameras, the loud crowd. Why are you surprised or not surprised by them?
Niino: One of the things that I was surprised with was how composed the team was at the beginning of the match. I think I was more nervous than them. The Trojan team you saw last night looked so comfortable and at ease. I think that could have been one of the reasons behind our win. One of the things that did not surprise me was their fight. I’ve always known that they had it. They just had to find it themselves.
HPW: Was the humidity a factor? Fuiava finally began to tire late in the match, but your other hitters Nathaniel Johnson (16 kills) and Brandon Rabang stepped up at the right time.
Niino: Fuiava did start getting tired towards the end of the match, but (Nathaniel) Johnson and Rabang stepped it up and came up with big points at crucial times. The other night against Waipahu, Rabang wasn’t having the best match, so I pulled him. At practice on Wednesday, I told him that if he wanted his position back, he would have to dig deep within himself and ask himself, ‘How bad do I want to play?’ He proved to me last night that he deserves his starting position back.
Johnson is our emotional leader. I told him at the beginning of the match that I need him to bring the emotion and that the team needs him to be loud and vocal, and he stepped it up! He’s a goofy kid and is full of energy, and his teammates definitely feed off it.
HPW: Guillermo has been so steady, and my stats show he had three blocks too. Is there anything about him that would surprise fans or viewers?
Niino: Just like Fuiava, Guillermo isn’t very vocal. He’s soft-spoken and can be very quiet. He is one of my captains and I told him that the reason I made him a captain was because I wanted him to break out of his shell and become a leader. As our season progressed, so have his leadership skills. I am so confident in him, that during some time outs, I let him and Fuiava lead the discussion while I step away.
HPW: Are the guys really aware of the 23-year gap since the previous Mililani championship? What’s their perspective like now that the title is in their hands?
Niino: On Wednesday night, I told the boys to look at the banners in the MHS gym. I told them to remember the number 23 because that was how many years ago the last (boys volleyball) was hung up in the gym. I told them that this was their chance to make history.
HPW: What is your plan for the preparation time leading into the state tourney, and what do you think about other title contenders like Punahou, KS-Hawaii, etc.?
Ninno: As for preparation, nothing is changing. We are going back into the gym and work, work, work.
HPW: Thank you, Coach.
HPW: What has the response at school been like from friends, teachers, etc.?
Chance Guillermo: At school, it seems like literally the whole school knows about our win last night. My teachers have been congratulating me as well and telling me how good we did at the game. Today, we had our end of year assembly and the school recognized us for winning OIAs last night and I thought that was pretty special.
Sila Fuiava: Everyone was so happy for us and complementing us on our performance as a team.
HPW: The volume of cheering at the title match was maybe the loudest I’ve heard for volleyball. Could you feel it or did your team block it out?
CG: At school, it seems like literally the whole school knows about our win last night. My teachers have been congratulating me as well and telling me how good we did at the game. Today, we had our end of year assembly and the school recognized us for winning OIAs last night and I thought that was pretty special.
SF: We could feel it but there’s something about our team that blocks the crowd out. The cheers from the opposing teams never get to us but when our crowd gets loud, it boost our team so much
HPW: What is it like to wake up and know you are the OIA champions? Especially after Moanalua had won so many.
CG: I feel accomplished. We put in so much effort and hard work at practices and it feels amazing that it finally paid off getting that title.
SF: It feels really good but we are ready to get back to work! We all feel great about it and we will not let it get to our heads!